Sunday, June 17, 2012

Silks and Wedding quilts

The bride loves green; the groom likes blue
 The wedding is in August, and the applique is finally done on the wedding quilt.  I'm almost finished with piecing the top, and still debating with myself over whether hand applique demands hand quilting.   By sometime tomorrow I have to make a decision. 

The interplay of color and line in this block with its setting triangles intrigues me.  I prefer batiks for applique for several reasons, formost the depth and intensity of color.  At the Home Machine Quilting Show in Salt Lake City this spring, I heard a salesman explaining that his batiks are more suitable for quilts because they have a lower thread count.  It didn't seem appropriate to break into his conversation to say that the high thread count, and resulting smooth surface, is part of what draws me to the batiks section over and over. 

Notes on sewing with silks:  This is partly to the new friend we met today at Caledonia fabrics in Boise, Idaho, and for anyone else who is mostly a quilter but loves other fibers too:

     *  Hand baste seams if your silk is slippery.  It doesn't take long, and holds layers together until   you complete the seam. It also removes the risk of sewing over a pin and marking the silk. 
     *  Use silk organza for interlining facings, cuff, and collars if you can get it, instead of iron-in or plain polyester interfacing.
     *  Use cotton thread rather than polyester or silk.  You want the thread to fail before the fabric does if there is unusual stress on a seam.
     *  Use thin sharp pins, and select machine needles in the 65-70 range.
     *  Pin inside the seam allowance, and don't sew over pins.
     *  Unless you plan to wash the garment, use a dry iron for all pressing.
     *  If you aren't lining the garment, consider either French seams or bound seams.  Of course, you can serge or zig-zag to secure seam edges, but again it depends on why you are sewing with silk.  My silk wedding dress has French seams anywhere the seams are exposed, but the lined bodice seams are just enclosed in the lining.  Wedding dresses don't get much wear, after all. 
    *   Obsess about the fit of the garment.  You can reduce the possibility of excessive tension on a seam by making sure the garment fits well and has enough ease for movement.

Even very finely woven silks are not as delicate as cottons of the same weight.  Remember, nylon is an artificial silk, and has historically been used to replace silk in parachutes and other light-and-strong applications. 

Silk is fabulous to work with and to wear.  Silk fabrics will tolerate hand or even machine washing on a delicates cycle, but washing will change the surface texture, and on smooth silks even a drop of water leaves a mark. So much depends on the purpose of the garment!  My grandmother Elsie had a pair of silk denim slacks she wore for about thirty years, occasionally complaining that they refused to wear out. 

For a wonderful variety of all sorts of silks at not unreasonable prices, check out

Caledonia Fine Fabrics in Boise has a great selection of silks, linens, wools, cottons, bridal lace, ultra suede, and fine trimmings.  There isn't a better source for fine fabrics in Utah or Idaho.  I haven't ordered from the website, but the photos of fabric are true to color, and the staff at the shop is very pleasant and helpful.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Volcano Viewing

Mt Hood from the Hood River highway.  Nuff said.

Oregon Tales continued

For Flower Girls dresses for the August wedding.  8" scissors
Hope the bride likes this fabric!  The background is actually a very pale blue-green, and the flowers include the whole range from Plum to Grape to Violet, so they will coordinate with the bridesmaids' dresses. 

After acknowledging that at Fabric Depot we'd met our match, we finshed the Boise-to-Portland day with a great seafood meal.

Next morning we got up determined to find Powell's and to see the Japanese Gardens.  We bought books and had a lovely lunch at Zeus's downtown, then headed for the gardens.  Maybe our smallish town boackground is showing.  It didn't occur to either of us that in Portland a sunny weekend afternoon in June might bring out everyone who ever wanted to go to the zoo, picnic in the park, or visit the Japanese Gardens.  Having driven the loop through the park along with a zillion other vehicles all looking for invisible parking spots, we went looking for views of Mt. Hood instead. 

The mountain made an excellent excuse for crossing the Columbia to the Washington side, just cooincidentally convenient to the Pendleton Mills shop.  Lovely wools, sweaters, and prices, and the view of Mount Hood was terrific.  So, no Japanese gardens, but a Fujiyama-esque moment with the local volcano.

More mountain tales later. 


Monday, June 11, 2012

Hunter-Gatherers on the Oregon Trail

What a great idea! For our birthdays, we decided to practice Zen Navigation. It's easy: fill the tank with gas, pack a pillow and a hand-work project, and set out early. Preferably with the wind at your back. (We had the wind in our faces, but the wind was clearing fog out of Portland, so it worked in our favor.) Anyhow, all you need is a clear idea of when you have to be home. If a side road is enticing, you're free to take it. If a quilt shop suddenly appears, find a parking spot.

When the day came, there was a new priority: find fabric for three flower girl dresses for a late summer wedding, and for coordinating but not matching dresses for the three younger nieces of the bride and groom. Earlier in the week, the wedding colors had changed from violet and silver to plum and charcoal. (These things happen) The violets fabric is now destined for the back of the wedding quilt. Fabric samples in hand, I set out.

                                       JoAnn Fabrics, Twin Falls, Idaho

First stop: JoAnn fabric and craft store in Twin Falls, Idaho. There are several potential winners, but the fluorescent lights in the shop cause poor color reproduction in digital photos. A cheerful clerk says "Take it outside," and keeps the cart from rolling away into the parking lot while I take the picture above.

I went to Boise to pick up my navigator, and we checked a couple of our favorite fabric stores.

                                                  Quilt Expressions, Boise

At Quilt Expressions this pair of fabrics include the colors in the two color samples.  There wasn't much fabric on either bolt, but together there's plenty for dresses for the three younger nieces.
The next morning, we headed west. It is remarkable how many stops for food or fuel can be in towns with quilt shops.

First, we visited Baker City, Oregon, but the first quilt shop was closed. On Saturday morning. Hmm. We picked up a quick breakfast and headed off on I-84.

At Pendleton, we stopped for gas, and a not coincidental visit to the Pendleton woolen mill. We oogled the blankets but didn't buy anything. More about wool later.

By later afternoon, we were in Portland at the Fabric Depot. We (purely by accident, or rather Zen navigation) arrived during a 35% off sale. Fabric Depot is enormous. It seems to have every quilt fabric of every line by every designer in the country. Maybe on the planet.

Fabric Depot, Portland

These fabrics include a lovely grape purple light weight linen and misc. other finds.  At some point we had to admit defeat:  we'd found perfect fabrics for all of our projects, and had not seen every fabric in the store.  It is possible to founder on fabric.



"Not all who wander are lost." JRR Tolkein